By William Haderlie / November 13th, 2016
The next major entry in one of the most beloved video game series of all time was due to arrive in September of this year after a long gestation period. However, Final Fantasy XV has now been delayed until November 29, 2016. While I, like most people, find this news to be a bit disappointing, I would also rather see this major entry be in its most complete form when it sees the light of day. So I err on the positive side of the delay reaction, more than the negative side. I will be reviewing the game for Operation Rainfall when it does arrive later this year (I’m going to assume for now that it will not see another delay).
In the meantime, I will be posting my top list of Final Fantasy games as a countdown until the release of the next entry. I can almost guarantee that our lists will be different, and I encourage discussion. This will also let our readers know some of the history of this franchise, and my own personal thoughts on it. This ranking is my own opinion and does not represent the views of the rest of the Operation Rainfall staff, but it is a creation that I am proud of, so I stand behind it.
Countdown List Rules
These rules are rather arbitrary, but I had to decide on a list of them just to make it more concise and clear. The first rule is that I will only put one version, the best version I’ve played, of each game. And the second rule, and possibly most contentious, is that I am listing any game that contains Final Fantasy in the American title of the game. That does mean a couple games featuring Final Fantasy characters, but not having that title, will not make the list. Examples of games featuring characters would be Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon or Ehrgeiz: God Bless The Ring. And that also means that there are other titles which were not originally Final Fantasy games in here as well, such as Final Fantasy Legend. Other than that, this list is just to have some fun and have a conversation while we wait for the next release in this classic JRPG franchise. There are 34 entries on my personal list, even discounting the different versions, so plan on a long series of articles, and I hope that you enjoy them.
Top Final Fantasy Game Countdown
34. Final Fantasy XI
33. Final Fantasy Record Keeper
32. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
31. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
30. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
29. Dissidia Final Fantasy
28. Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
27. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
26. Final Fantasy XIV
25. Final Fantasy Adventure
24. The Final Fantasy Legend
23. Final Fantasy Legend II
22. Final Fantasy Legend III
21. Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
20. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
19. Final Fantasy Type-0
18. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
17. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
16. Final Fantasy II
15. Final Fantasy III
14. Final Fantasy
13. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
12. Final Fantasy VII
11. Final Fantasy XIII
10. Final Fantasy VIII
09. Final Fantasy X
We are definitely into the cream of the crop with this list now. It is going to be increasingly difficult for me to find criticisms that I find particularly damning for any of these games. The prospect of ranking Final Fantasy X has driven that issue home. There are certainly things that I think could be improved with this game, but it still holds a very special place in my heart. As you can see from my list, I consider the first game of the PlayStation 2 generation to be better than the first game of the PlayStation 1 generation. Even better is the fact that this game has a wonderful HD remastering that makes the game stand up to the test of time even better than it did before. I own the original game and the HD remaster on PS Vita, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC Steam. I have to say that the version I consider to be the best is the PC Steam edition. The music is slightly improved, and the bonus game modifiers are nice if you are just looking to see everything in the game without spending over 100 hours, but the primary appeal is all the new textures that make the story even more visually striking.
Possibly my favorite part of this game are the characters. I’m not the largest fan of Tidus or Wakka, but Yuna and Lulu and Auron and especially Rikku are all wonderful and memorable. Even with Tidus and Wakka, they have their high points, Kimarhi is a bit middle of the road, but he’s not annoying so he’s fine. Some of Yuna’s personal decisions make me want to strangle her, but it’s good to remember that she is supposed to be a teenage girl. As a summoner, this whole story basically revolves around her, but a famous person once said that any story worth writing is always about a girl.
As to how the characters interact with each other, it’s mostly very satisfying even with the perpetually grumpy Lulu. Tidus is not as likable of a protagonist as I would have liked, but he’s really given a tough set of issues. He is in love with someone who is determined to kill herself, and his father is a total emasculating twat. The fact that everyone else just goes along with how his father treats him is quite pathetic. With the power of the PlayStation 2, they were able to really tell a cinematic story, even if they had to sacrifice some freedom in order to do so. The fact that there are still relatively few complaints about how linear this game was is a good reminder of how well good storytelling can mask that.
As I have said previously in this countdown, I am a total sucker for romance. It does play a fairly significant part of the story in this game, and as such it increases my affection and nostalgia for the story greatly. What holds me back from boosting the game even farther up on the list due to the story is that the romance is not the strongest narrative element. There is a stronger narrative element which I am not very fond of, and that is the fascination with death and sacrifice. I recognize the value of these elements in literature, but I personally do not seek them out. They strike me as the fascinations of youth and the privileged (those who need to add drama to an undramatic life). It’s not just the focus on Yuna’s slow march to death, it’s how the whole story focuses on death and decay. It’s quite difficult to consider the world of Spira really all that worth saving. But that is my personal opinion and tastes.
The ending of the game does nothing to dissuade me from considering the death focus to be the primary narrative design. And while I don’t need every ending to be a Disney ending, after spending hundreds of hours with a piece of entertainment, I want a happy ending. But the bright side is that it gave them room for a sequel, even though they initially had no plans on that subsequent game when the first was completed. These issues I have with the story tone are even more apparent with subsequent playthroughs (most recently a few months ago), but not enough to dissuade me from picking it up again. The story is still good even after the many times I have finished the game, and the character building and combat are great. One final issue I have with the story (an exclusive to the recent HD remasters) is the bonus story of Final Fantasy X Eternal Calm. Whomever created that story I’m half tempted to punch them in the face for doing that to my characters. But, it’s fiction, so they are safe. The point being, that it was upsetting enough that I will never boot up that bonus dialogue ever again. Once was enough to really piss me off.
I’m really fond of the turn based combat in this Final Fantasy. It can be a bit slow, but you can switch in another party member when you want, and there is a decent amount of damage types and enemy variety. Some of the optional fights are really tough as well, which is something I always look forward to in my RPGs. The above picture is from my most recent playthrough of the game and, as you can probably tell, I love to make super-powered characters. One of the criticisms people have for the character growth in this game is that because they all share the same sphere grid there is little difference between them. While that is true for the super-powered characters who have filled out the whole sphere grid, even after that they still have very different Overdrives. So it doesn’t bother me that much even now, and the fact that I can make Yuna a super powerful physical attacker makes me smile.
Even beyond the combat itself, there is a ton of optional tasks that can absorb dozens of hours in this game. From the pretty deep Blitzball, to the simple Chocobo Racing, and with the fun and super important Monster Arena, there is just a lot of really interesting things to do in the game even beyond the main story. Blitzball ended up getting a little boring after learning how to game the AI a bit, but it’s still one of the best mini-games to be ever included in a Final Fantasy game, in my opinion. So that leaves not very many complaints, and a very fantastic game. Let it be said that this game is only at #9 on my list because the other games I like more, not because I have all that much to criticize this game for. I’ve already beaten this game at least 5 times, and there is no sense that I will stop replaying it any year soon.
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